|image: JAMSTEC, IPRS, NOAA, NASA|
Following the record quake, crushing tsunami waves reached 133 ft (40.5 meters) in height and traveled up to six miles (10 km) inland. Nearly twenty thousand people were killed or have gone missing.
When the massive waves retreated, they pulled out to sea millions of tons of demolished houses, cars, furniture and the remnants of thousands of lives. Some of these items will sink as they move across the ocean, but many will not.
A staggering five to twenty million tons of refuse, containing everything from house parts, appliances and the minutia of peoples' lives will likely begin to arrive at Midway Islands, which lies between Japan and Hawaii, sometime this winter. The debris plume is estimated to be two thousand miles long and a thousand miles long.
|Debris Plume image: US Navy|
This prediction is the result of a model ( .pdf) developed by Nikolai Maximenko, a senior researcher at the International Pacific Research Center in Hawaii. He studied thirty years of ocean currents using data from thousands of buoys dotting the ocean. Recently a Russian ship passing between Honolulu and Vladivostock, Russia spotted the Japanese debris field just where Maximenko's model predicted it would be. You can view an animation of the projected path here.